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By Graham on 18/03/2019
A burst pipe has the potential to cause flooding or costly damage to your home, and can also be damaging to neighbouring properties. So as a homeowner, it is important to understand who is responsible for the care and repair of the pipework that delivers water to and from your home.
In this blog we’ll look at what responsibilities you have as a homeowner, provide some tips on taking care of the plumbing in your home and give guidance on what you should do in the event of burst pipework.
Who is responsible for what?
Put simply, your water supplier is responsible for the pipes leading up to your property’s boundary, while you are responsible for the pipes inside the property. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what that means in practical terms:
As a homeowner, you are responsible for:
Water supply pipe: This is the pipe that extends from your property boundary to the stop valve in your home. Most modern houses have an individual water supply pipe, but flats and terraced houses – as well as some older homes – will often have a shared supply pipe. Shared pipes are the joint responsibility of all neighbours who share the pipe.
Stop valve (stopcock): The stop valve controls the water supply into your home, and is found within your property boundaries, usually inside your home and often beneath the kitchen sink. The stop valve allows you to halt the flow of water into your property in the event of a burst pipe or during plumbing work. (Please note: this can be referred to as either a stop valve or a stopcock – but shouldn’t be confused with the main stopcock at your property boundary, as mentioned below.)
Private drain: This is the pipe that removes waste water from your property, running from within your home to the property boundary and the public sewer.
Your water supplier (Scottish Water for all properties in Scotland) is responsible for:
Stopcock and water meter: The main stopcock and (where applicable) water meter are at the end of the communication pipe, at the property boundary. The stopcock allows your water supplier to halt the flow of water to your home, for example to carry out checks or repair works.
Communication pipe: The communication pipe runs from your street’s water main to meet the stopcock at your property boundary.
Water main: The water main supplies public water to all the properties in the local area.
Sewers: Public sewers transport waste water from your private drain to waste water treatment works.
Taking care of the plumbing in your home
Now that you know which areas of the plumbing in and around your home are your responsibility, here are our top three tips for taking care of the pipes and fittings in your home:
Find your property’s stop valve: It’s important to know where your stop valve is located, because if you experience a leak or burst pipe, the first thing you’ll need to do is turn off the water supply at the stop valve to minimise the risk of further damage. It’s also a good idea to turn the valve off and on once a year or so, to be sure that it will work properly if and when it’s needed.
Ensure your pipes are protected: Water expands when it freezes, so when this occurs in pipes in cold weather it can be one of the major causes of pipe damage. Any water pipes in unheated parts of your home – such as lofts, basements or garages – should be properly lagged to prevent damage from freezing.
Turn off your water when away from home: If you are going to be away from home for an extended period, it’s a good idea to turn off your water supply at the stop valve to reduce the risk of returning home to a burst or leaking pipe. Failure to do so could be costly and can result in insurance complications – some home insurers stipulate that you should turn the water off if the house is going to be empty for more than a month.
What to do in an emergency
If you become aware of a burst pipe in your property, you should act as quickly as possible and turn off your water supply at the stop valve to reduce the risk of damage to your home. Scottish Water provides a detailed checklist of what you should do before calling a plumber if a pipe bursts in your home.
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